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Contently Case Story: How AARP Media Sales Taps a Trillion-Dollar Market

Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.

At times, people over the age of 50 are unfairly portrayed as inactive and indolent as they head toward retirement. But in reality, many of these Americans are taking advantage of their opportunity to travel the world, taking the kind of vacations some only dream about. In fact, they’re arguably the most powerful and influential consumers out there.

According to a recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, people over 50 have a combined income of $2.4 trillion. They outspend the average consumer in every category from auto to home and travel, year after year. And a Forrester report from a few years ago found that baby boomers spend twice as much money online as younger demographics.

However, even though the over-50 crowd is more than 100 million strong and accounts for approximately half of all consumer spending, AARP found that they are targeted by just 10 percent of marketing spend.

Enter AARP Media Sales, which speaks directly to this market with high-quality multimedia content that evokes a sense of freedom and adventure.

A history of storytelling

People don’t necessarily think of AARP as a media company, but the organization has an impressive history as a publisher. AARP The Magazine, which debuted in 1958, now boasts the largest print circulation in the country, with more than 22 million bi-monthly issues sent to homes of AARP members. Celebrities ranging from Susan Sarandon to Michael Douglas regularly appear on the cover. And when you factor in AARP Bulletin and AARP.org, AARP has a total readership of 37 million.

susan sarandon michael douglas - aarp

Following this storytelling model, the organization launched BrandAmp by AARP, a native advertising studio for brands to connect with AARP’s expansive and engaged audience. Under BrandAmp, companies work with AARP Media Sales to craft high-quality custom content to inform and tell their brand story to their target audience.

Since the organization plans to keep BrandAmp independent from the editorial branch, and the magazine writers and editors don’t produce native ads, AARP Media Sales looked outside of the organization for the right solution.

When the department began thinking about content marketing, internal research led them to Contently. In addition to Contently’s editorial platform that lets companies manage creative logistics, AARP Media Sales gained access to a network of 60,000 freelancers, editorial strategy, and talent services.

“We knew we needed a content provider to help bring BrandAmp to life,” said Deborah Sprague, associate director of content and project management for AARP Media Sales. “With Contently and its pool of talent, we found that partner.”

The Avis project

Some people may not associate a car rental company with a sense of adventure and natural beauty, but that’s exactly what AARP Media Sales brought to the forefront with its recent native ad campaign sponsored by Avis.

As part of a photo poll, AARP viewers could vote for their favorite U.S. road trip. Ten drives were showcased, from the Scenic Byway 12 in Utah to the route from Miami to Key West. The project lived online and was teased in AARP The Magazine with a blurb enticing readers to visit the digital experience. The results were incredibly fruitful: In just two weeks, the poll garnered more than 17,600 votes.

“In working with brands you need to create something different, something engaging that pulls readers into a story and gets them thinking,” Sprague said. “BrandAmp works to create custom content, providing brand awareness and purchase consideration in one seamless experience.”

The winning road trip, the Pacific Coast Highway, was then featured in a comprehensive video series, which highlighted where to stay, places to eat, and things to do in five different locations along the highway. The final experience became a virtual road trip down the coast of California.

To create this PCH video series, AARP Media found the right video production company for the job through Contently. The 45-second clips serve as an intriguing glimpse into what someone over 50 might experience along the way, like surfing in Santa Cruz or golfing in Carmel, drawing attention to activities that emphasize vitality.

“I love the way that it’s useful information, how it pulls me in,” Sprague said. “The quality of the Contently staff and freelancers far exceeded our expectations and made our job much easier.”

While the BrandAmp’s content team continues to look at traditional KPIs like pageviews and conversions to gauge its success, they’re also looking at more than just clicks. For native ads, audience perception and brand lift are very much top of mind.

“If your native experience is beautiful and you have a logo or opportunity for conversion somewhere on the site, even if the visitor doesn’t immediately take action, they might eventually see it and think: ‘Oh, that’s right! I’m taking a trip. I remember that Avis road trip experience,'” Sprague added.” It sticks with them.”

For AARP Media Sales, the Avis project is a strong indicator that BrandAmp is headed in the right direction. And based on the positive response, don’t be surprised if the Pacific Coast Highway is a little more crowded this year.

“We want to tell media buyers, brands, and advertisers that AARP is the place to tell your brand story for content marketing,” Sprague said. “We want them to know we can partner with them and create some amazing opportunities that resonate with an audience that has influence and purchasing power.”

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